Tawny Kitaen surely was the epitome of rock and roll, her brother fondly remembers.
The video vixen died at the age of 59 on Friday, May 7 at her home in Newport Beach, Calif. Her younger brother, Jordan Kitaen, revealed to Fox News that a “cathartic” celebration of her life was held in California on Monday featuring speeches and musical performances from a few of her loved ones.
The service is something Jordan says helped to provide the family “some closure” following her untimely death. While touching on the highlights of her career as an unforgettable star of rock music videos in the ’80s, there’s a special memory between the siblings that Jordan still laughs at to this day, and it dates back to 1987.
Jordan says he was 20 years old and a member of a fraternity during his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, when his rush chairman approached him with the idea of getting Tawny to attend a rush party as a way to attract prospective brothers.
“He thought, if my sister might show up at one of our rush parties it would help with attendance a little bit. We can leak it out that she’d be there,” Jordan recalls. “We put the word out and it spread.”
“The line was out the freakin’ door down Gayley Avenue, known as the fraternity row at UCLA. It was halfway down Gayley for these freshman dudes to get in this party,” he adds.
Jordan says he was quite surprised when his big sis not only showed up but showed attendees a good time. This, just a few years after she starred opposite Tom Hanks in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party” and was widely known as the rock world’s “video vixen” after appearing on the cover of two albums from the heavy metal band Ratt and starring in several music videos for Whitesnake, including the 1987 smash song “Here I Go Again.” The video, played repeatedly on the burgeoning music television network, featured Kitaen performing cartwheels on the hood of a Jaguar.
“She was sent with a bodyguard and she ditched that guy pretty soon,” Jordan laughs. “She was dancing with all the fraternity bros and just having fun.”
Jordan notes that Tawny stayed “about an hour and a half and just chatted everybody up.”
“It was cute and we ended up having a great rush that year,” he adds.
Like many of Tawny’s admirers, Jordan, who called Tawny by her birth name Julie, is awaiting her cause of death. The Orange County coroner’s office said she died at her home in Newport Beach. Her cause of death is pending an autopsy report that has yet to be released.
Jordan tells Fox investigators found nothing at the scene that suggested drugs or alcohol played a factor in her death. He upholds the belief that the heartbreak she suffered following her father’s April death played a role.
“I feel more than ever that that was a major contributing factor,” Jordan said. “I think his death cut a cord that was sort of keeping her here and fighting to overcome her issues. And I think when he went, the concept of death became more real to her of losing someone that near and dear to her.”
The star had a tumultuous personal life. She married Whitesnake singer David Coverdale in 1989, but the pair divorced two years later. She later married MLB pitcher Chuck Finley in 1997, with whom she had two daughters. The marriage was rocky and it ended in 2002.
During an appearance on “Celebrity Rehab,” Kitaen admitted she struggled with substance abuse, Variety reported. According to the outlet, she had several run-ins with the law, including a charge for cocaine possession in 2006 and driving under the influence in 2009.
Jordan says he and Tawny’s loved ones are “certain” she didn’t intentionally do anything to end her life.
“It wasn’t in her character to do anything on purpose,” he shares.
Tawny’s brother pointed to a quote once said by Marty Callner, director of Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” music video, in which he spoke to her having “the ultimate rock and roll attitude of life.”
Jordan says that analysis certainly rang true.
“She was open with her life and sometimes I think she was a too revealing and too intimate. But she was still always very encouraging and hopeful and sunny,” he says. “I think that’s how people wanted her to be and remembered her that way, and she was that way. She still had an attitude and was sassy and still a rock and roller at heart, big time.”
“We just want to say thank you for all of you, her fans and her friends, for always showing her such support and love. You gave her life everyday,” their statement said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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